I’ve written about NSB’s (Norwegian State Railway’s) digital ticket system before, but back then the rest of the train ride was somewhat of a 1950s experience with old trains, shaky WiFi, and more bugs than what’s fun to deal with for the ticket app. Fast forward a few months, and things have changed. The company’s new Stadler FLIRT trains are now in service, and I just had my first hands on experience with both the updated app and the new trains. To put it simply, I think it’s the first train ride I’ve had that you’d think took place in the 21st century.
The new train cars are larger, look (and are) newer, and have a lot more technology in them. The “first class”/”comfort” part of the old trains look like prison cells compared to the normal seats on the new ones, and AC outlets are available for all seats. If you want to use your laptop, or just charge your phone, you now can.
The WiFi system in the new trains also seems a bit more robust. Where the old system was a joke that dropped out every time you entered an EDGE-only zone (which happens quite often in some parts of Norway), I had a solid megabit of downstream this time, even through those places where my phone dropped to EDGE. Few things make a mobile device more useless than the lack of an internet connection, so this is a very neat upgrade.
As for the app, most of the changes have to do with other ticket types than normal (e.g. seasonal), but I like the fact that you now have better control over tickets that are on the device, leaving the guesswork out of whether it needs a data connection to work or not. It’s just something about arriving at the train station, hitting a few buttons on your phone, and having a train ticket downloaded and ready that makes me glad I have a smartphone.
I might seem overly excited about something as trivial as a train ride, but you didn’t see the state of the old system. Being aboard a train with a smartphone, laptop, and two tablets is just sad when none of them have access to power or the internet. Calling a 200 ton train a mobile device accessory is perhaps not the most accurate description out there, but that’s the feeling you get when you can board a train, show the ticket on your device, plug it in, and then spend the rest of the journey browsing the internet without using up your data plan. Then again, other parts of the world have had this – and better – for years now.